The Cubs are about to embark on a six-game road trip against two very beatable teams and they’re doing so in the wake of Marquee’s announcement of a direct-to-consumer streaming service. Sounds like they’ve got both motive and opportunity to spend at the deadline. Now it’s just a matter of stepping up and playing this next week in such a way that it forces the front office to buy.
Kyle Hendricks has a chance to get keep the winning train rolling as he takes the bump on Tuesday evening. He looked solid against the Nats after a pair of shaky starts and now he faces an offense that isn’t scary on the whole. The Sox have hit three more homers than the Cubs, albeit in two fewer games, but the South Siders’ 88 wRC+ ranks 26th in MLB.
If Hendricks can just keep the Sox at bay for a while, the offense should be able to make his opponent work. Mike Tauchman knows how to work a plate appearance and he’s leading off in center, followed by Nico Hoerner at second and Ian Happ in left. Cody Bellinger bats cleanup at first base, Seiya Suzuki is in right, and Dansby Swanson is at short. Christopher Morel is the DH, Yan Gomes is catching, and Miles Mastrobuoni is the third baseman.
Michael Kopech has managed just 92.1 innings over 18 starts and has only completed seven frames twice in that time. He’s got 102 strikeouts and will certainly miss some bats, though he hasn’t really been the same over his last five outings. Through June 10, he had a 27.5% strikeout rate and a 10.7% walk rate over 73.2 innings. Since then, his strikeout rate has dropped to 18.1% and his walk rate is a whopping 25.5% over 18.2 innings.
If those trends continue, the Cubs will be able to get plenty of baserunners against Kopech in this one. He seems to have lost the feel for just about every pitch, as his fastball, slider, change, and curve have all produced negative value over the last five starts. It’s gotten to the point where he’s in that Justin Steele range of becoming a two-pitch guy at times.
All that said, Kopech could put it all back together for double-digit strikeouts in a dominant effort. He generates a lot of spin on his mid-90s fastball and likes to work up in the zone with it, then he’ll sweep that slider down to the glove side. He’s getting fewer swinging and called strikes alike, largely because the ol’ slide-ball doesn’t have great location. Kopech’s changeup is a mess location-wise and his curve could wind up anywhere as well, but both can be effectively wild if the two big pitches are working.
He’s a split-neutral pitcher, though he does tend to walk lefties a little more often. He’s also been much better at home this season, so maybe it’s time for the Cubs to turn things around in that regard.
First pitch is at 7:10pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
Here is tonight's #Cubs starting lineup at Guaranteed Rate Field!
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 25, 2023